Getting trigger happy with trigger warnings: mental health, (dis)ability and
Trigger warning: Talk will include discussion of disability and mental health
issues including depression, anxiety, and suicide. Will also include discussion of how other oppressed groups may be triggered i.e. through racism, queerphobia, sexism, etc. No detailed or graphic discussion of any of these issues.
Ableism, discrimination against people with disabilities, is unfortunately commonly found in mainstream Australian society and in activist circles. Many Australians associate the word ‘disability’ with intellectual impairments such as Down’s syndrome, or with a physical and visible disability, which might require the use of a wheelchair. However, the leading form of disability in the world is depression. Other forms of mental illness are also very common, such as anxiety and substance abuse. Although anti-discrimination laws protect the rights of people with disabilities, much still needs to be done on public attitudes and awareness, particularly towards those who are often not viewed
as having a ‘disability’.
This paper will consider how animal rights activists and other advocacy groups can be more inclusive of people with disabilities, particularly mental health issues, through the use of trigger warnings, safe spaces policies, preventing activist “burn-out”, and making adjustments to working arrangements. Such policies are also applicable to those who may not have a disability, but may also be triggered by traumatic discussions, such as queer people, survivors of violence, Indigenous people, people of colour, and other groups that experience discrimination or trauma. As the advocates for progressive change in society, it is vital that animal activists and other groups have a thorough knowledge of disability issues, and use this knowledge to make real changes that are more inclusive of people with disabilities.
Katie is a Law/Arts (Politics and International Studies) graduate, majoring in international human rights issues. Her work experience has included unions, community legal organisations and social justice law firms. She co-hosts the political podcast Progressive Podcast Australia with her partner, Nick Pendergrast.
She is currently the Coordinator of Animal Rights Advocates (Inc.),
a grassroots abolitionist animal rights group based in Western
Australia. She has interned in Geneva, Switzerland, with a human
rights organisation, observing the UN Human Rights Commission
and reporting on the Syria enquiry. As a Youth Advisor to the Board
of Amnesty International Australia, she initiated the creation of a
Safer Spaces Policy. Her areas of interest include feminism,